What to Do if You’ve Been Laid Off During the Pandemic

A barista preparing an espresso behind the counter at a coffee shop

The coronavirus pandemic has done unprecedented levels of damage to the American workforce. Since the pandemic began to escalate in March, more than 22 million Americans have lost their jobs. For comparison, following the stock market crash in 1929 signaled the start of the Great Depression, the unemployment rate shot from 3.2 percent to 16 percent in 1931 and a peak of 25 percent in 1934. In just the last five weeks, nearly 15 percent of American workers lost their jobs.  

To combat this seismic shift in the workforce, the government has taken action to expand unemployment relief. Still, losing one’s job in the face of a crisis like COVID-19 can be daunting. While filing for unemployment is the first financial step you need to take to get by, you might need to do other things to stay afloat mentally and emotionally too.

Here’s what you can do to make sure you stay as whole as possible if you’ve been laid off during this pandemic.

Unemployment Updates

Under the CARES Act, the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package passed by Congress in March, unemployment benefits have expanded massively. First off, not only is anyone who got laid off or furloughed eligible for unemployment, independent contractors and the self-employed can get benefits for the first time ever. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program provides federal aid to those not traditionally covered by state unemployment programs.

In addition, the federal government has ensured that people on unemployment will receive more money than normal under these circumstances. The average unemployment benefit in the U.S., although it can vary greatly by state, is about $300-$400 per week. The CARES Act is adding an extra $600 weekly to better compensate for the loss of a paycheck.

Finally, although the additional $600 payments are tentatively scheduled to end on July 31, anyone can now receive unemployment for up to 39 consecutive weeks, compared to the typical 26. This move will help people through the end of the year as the economy struggles. The unemployment benefits, along with the direct payments to taxpayers, form the basis of the federal relief for individuals.

The rollout hasn’t been perfect, as states like Florida and New York have struggled to keep up with the increased traffic to unemployment sites. Regardless, if you lose your job during the pandemic, filing for unemployment should be your first step.

See Also: How to File for Unemployment

Mental Health Resources

Losing your job can naturally take a toll on your mental health regardless of the circumstances. Having that happen in the middle of a global pandemic can be a serious stressor. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by constant updates of the crisis, especially when it directly impacts your life.

To help guide people through this challenging time, the National Alliance on Mental Illness published a resource and information guide specifically for the COVID-19 pandemic.  In it, you’ll find helpful tips and information, as well as free access to support groups and hotlines. Grappling with so much info at once can add to your stress levels, but staying informed is one of the most important steps to staying healthy.

Psych Hub, a mental health education platform, has also compiled resources and info to help anyone struggling with their mental health. In addition, Mental Health Technologies is providing free screenings for anxiety and depression. If you’re stressed or overwhelmed by the current situation, the assessment can help you pinpoint what you’re dealing with and find the resources you need.

Remote Jobs Hiring Now

Most people who find themselves out of work may be faced with a difficult choice in the coming weeks as the U.S. economy re-opens: stay home to lower your risk of getting infected, or get to work and risk illness. It’s an impossible decision, but more companies are finding flexible ways to allow people to work from home.

We’ve compiled a list of jobs that are hiring remote workers today. No job is worth putting yourself in the path of the virus if you can avoid it. Explore your options around working from home.